tv Book Discussion on the Book of Matt CSPAN October 15, 2013 1:00am-1:46am EDT
and tied to a fence. that was a story i believe. i spent -- when i went to laramie and february of 2000 at that time this was just a few months after aaron mckenney's trial which ended in early november of 1999. during the entire year that the case was going on all of the principle witnesses in the case of all of the principles in the case may forstmann and people who worked at the courthouse everyone that was involved was under a gag order so they could not talk about the case for a full year. there was also a court order to seal all the records in the case so the records were sealed also for that year. journalists who went to laramie once the crime happened and matthew was attacked on tuesday
evening october 6 in 1998. he died on october 12 a short period later. the media that came to laramie to report the case was relying a lot on a couple of initial press releases and press releases and press conferencconferenc s and basically what they could pick up -- pick up a lot of which was hearsay because they couldn't interview a lot of witnesses and they couldn't look through the police records and they couldn't look at the police reports and statements. the statements in the principles in the case. about eight months into my research in laramie i finished the first draft of the screenplay. by then and this happened early on. on. i met the prosecutor in the case. his name was cal. he was the person responsible for sending aaron mckenney and
russell henderson away for life. they both received two life sentences with no chance of a role. after about eight months i finished the draft and i asked the prosecutor to read it and do some fact-checking for me and to be sure that i hadn't misstated something and i use a lot of court documents. i came upon a letter and the courthouse in a file during what i thought would be my last research trip and in this letter it was an anonymous letter written to the prosecutor. he said the defense aaron mckenney used in this trial but gay panic defense claiming that matthew had touched him and he sort of flipped out. it says that this was bogus and aaron mckinney was bisexual and that he was very familiar with gay men. had been to gay bars and this
was really bogus. of course i looked at this anonymous letter and thought this is incredible as a journalist but on the other hand it named a man named doc o'connor who was a limousine driver in laramie who was a friend of both aaron mckinney the killer and matthew shepherd. i had seen doc o'connor's name in magazine articles and he was later portrayed in the laramie project and was portrayed really is a kind of folksy cowboy like character. a there is talk about how it starts. eventually i interviewed doc o'connor and found there was a whole other story there. doc you know had quite an illustrious history.
he had many run-ins with the police although he was never convicted of any crimes. he had owned adult bookstores in denver. he was kind of a mysterious businessman who had a background that was kind of hard for people to pin down exactly what it was. when i learned about doc o'connor and the doc o'connor was a link between matthew shepard and aaron mckinney and was very curious. i was also very curious about these allegations that aaron mckinney was bisexual. so i began to investigate as a journalist first for the new york times magazine. i approach them with the story and a commission me to write about it. i worked on the story for two years on and off for two years until -- from 2000 to 22,004 i was on that commission. "the new york times" eventually killed the story. the editor commissioned it from me had left the magazine.
he is gay and he now runs new york magazine. his name is adam moss and the editors who inherited the story from him were less enthusiastic so the story was killed. at the same time on 2020 a story that would come out at the same time and i thought they would kill the story based on what had happened at the "time" magazine. the executive producer of abc news 2020 was still there is also gay and he actually said no let's do it. at that time as i said i interviewed the prosecutor extensively and i have now interviewed other people in laramie and also had also done the only interviews that the two men convicted of the murder aaron mckinney and russell henderson had given. i have gotten to know them quite well and interview them extensively by phone and eventually at the prison. what i found in summary form and
i hope you will take the time to read the book, is that in fact aaron mc kinney and matthew shepard had a history together. they had known each other months before the crime although the official story was that aaron mckinney and russell henderson walked into a bar in laramie wyoming and matthew appeared well-dressed. he looked like he might have some money and appeared to be gay. that was the conventional story that was told by most of the mainstream media. certainly by "the new york times" "newsweek" "vanity fair" etc.. so as i began investigating and i realized it appeared that aaron mckinney and matthew shepard knew each other obviously i was curious in what way do they know each other? through some sources in the book just to say there have been a couple of things that have come out in the media and people who haven't read the book just in the last few days saying that
you know the sources in the book are not credible or that i've used anonymous sources just to say at the end of the book there is a list of 112 named sources of people that i spoke with for the book. there are a couple of people, a few people for whom i use pseudonyms and the reason i use pseudonyms is because these are people that were involved in selling crystal meth and where people involved actually in the traffickitrafficki ng of meth between two states largely between colorado and wyoming. so you know i pointed out to a few interviewers over the last few days that this was a dangerous story to consider. i didn't bite it off all at once. initially discovered as i said some of the sexual allegations and what happened is it took me into the world of meth dealing.
i am here looking a little spiffy but i can say a required undercover reporting in which i really went to many of the bars in laramie and i got to know the bartenders and i got to know the bouncers. eventually i got to know the drug dealers working with aaron mckinney. several of them were the same supplier. this was cumulative as i started to explore the drug world and then discovered obviously that matthew shepard also had been involved with crystal meth as a user. first when he was living in denver before he moved to laramie. he moved to laramie in the summer of 1998 and as i said the crime happened in october of 1998. i was interested in what was the history that was there and what i found, and i found this from
quite a number of sources. i have 10 sources who have gone on the record about having witnessed some aspect of the relationship between matthew and aaron. some of it was socializing at parties. it was also -- there are several people who were present when there was a drug and money exchange between them and again none of this is to say in any way that this was not a -- it was a horribly violent -- grotesquely violent kind that occurred in laramie in october of 1998 but the story that was presented and that really was quickly mythologized and is the story that most people if you ask them they would say yes he was the young man who was murdered as he was gay. i wanted to say some of this is background to how i got involved.
i reported the story for many years after the abc news piece aired. i went on with a reporter and i continued to do reporting that some of the sources that i used in the 2020 piece and then i moved on to find other sources and to document further some of what i found. it really as i say to me into the crystal meth world. one of the things we have to look at here is that in 1998 when matthew was killed people people -- particularly the media were not talking about methamphetamine. crystal meth did not become a story -- the national media did not begin a report on it seriously until 2004. he did not become a big story until 2006 in 2007 but in 1998 math was already becoming a big
problem in laramie wyoming and starting to move across western states. it was becoming a problem in iowa and missouri and nebraska and colorado and wyoming and montana. the epidemic became quite large and it's still a problem today, had already begun. it again to be a problem in certain urban gay enclaves in the cities at that time that were being affected were san francisco new york and los angeles. crystal meth was a circuit party drug and something that people got off on the fact they could stay up all night dancing and it really -- the drugs makes you feel especially the beginning made make you feel really alive and powerful and very alive. now in righteous but then i talk about this in the book, this drug was moving through those two segments at the same time.
through urban gay communities and also a through the rocky mountain west and the midwest and it just wasn't at the time that we were not looking at that. when i looked into the police reports i found references that journalists had never reported on because the records were sealed. in the course right after questioning my friends and in particular one friend alex trout told the police that matthew had gotten into methamphetamine and coke when he was living in denver. this was significant as the police said that aaron mckinney had been dealing meth for three years in laramie. he was very much on the police radar at that point. what i would like to do this rather than go through a lot of what i talk about in the book i would like to read you a short passage. it won't take any more than eight or 10 minutes.
it's a couple of pages from the book but i think it will give you a feeling for what the voice of the book is some of the things i discovered and a little bit about the characters here. would you like me to read it with the microphone? this is a short chapter. it's chapter 19 and it's called sleeping dogs. one of the care church that i mention here is someone for whom i have used a pseudonym and his name here is kyle. on a friday afternoon in later over of 2004 at little more than
six years after the murder i drove 200 miles to meet kyle a former drug company heard of aaron mckinney alone at an isolated truckstop off iad in western wyoming. i interviewed kyle twice before in prison and he had been surprisingly corporate if so i felt more or less safe. still i took her caution since he had earlier advised me, you don't know who you are dealing with referring to his friends higher up on the drug dealing food chain. kyle worked in in the oilfields and it just gotten off his shift. he was still in company overalls his face and hands stained with crude. as we sat in the front seat of his parked car talking about matthew shepard whom he had grievously claimed to know only in passing i suggested that matthew might have gotten in over his head with drugs. kyle snarled at me like i was an
idiot. yeah and he was taking stuff away from the rest of us. without warning to other vehicles suddenly backed into spaces on both sides of us waging a san. when i saw what was happening i got from the car and ran into the middle of the parking lot where there were more lights. kyle shouted for me to get back into the car but i refused. at that instant a friend of mine who was planted in a nearby truck monitoring the meeting called my cell phone. get out of there steve. they are setting you up. ..
has made it it like the old west he remarked. it is deadly. by the end cal was voted out of office after for elected terms. down prosecuting state and federal drug cases of the twin cities of rock springs of green river the epicenter of methamphetamine traffic. after telling me about a colleague of a judge who was recently surprised they a aren't male intruder in the bathroom of his home while shaving. users to relay a message about a drug case he was awaiting sentencing. then he quietly slipped away. i saw no point in what he decided but his reference to
the old west brought back a conversation that i recently had about matthew's murder in the albany county sheriff's office. the copley in dover his chest with his windburn face close to mine. it is for background i will not be using your name trying to sound reassuring. what happened to nancy sheppard was not a hate crime at all he confided but why do you want to go digging into that? just let sleeping dogs lie. instead of laying out the suspicions of the involvement of the other parties beyond aaron
mckinney a and henderson i reminded him that kelly was a seminal national event like the civil-rights killing of the 1960's as if he was somehow not familiar with the stigma that continued to tarnish his home town. the public has the right to know if the murder was really a hate crime or if not, what was the? the cop was shrugging doubtfully almost as if the afterthought he flashed me another smile but his eyes told me to let sleeping dogs lie. >> my hope was rather than read a lot from the book which i hope you will read your souls i would just like to have a discussion in the conversation why i wrote the
book and why i will travel all over the country to talk did bookstores the and the colleges and book festivals and book fares because i think it is worth having the conversations that create violent events like this. so i would love to entertain some questions to have a conversation about whatever it is our what i hope to achieve or anything you want to ask diana open to any questions you would like to ask about the book. >> my question may be more detailed but it seems like there are a lot of people killed over drugs that is not a spectacular
ritualistic way. >> i do address that. over the things that surprise you with researcher for methamphetamine was to learn some of the horribly grotesquely violent crimes that are committed under the influence of methamphetamine. aaron mckinney was up for one week before the crime happened. one week straight. the comment you made has been made by several people. the murder had overkill. a continuous beating with the barrel of the 357 magnum. sadly, if you look into meth crime bill sitter committed under the influence are horribly violent because usually people at that point is in a psychotic state there is a net induced psychosis.
one of the people research a book with was a psychologist at ucla medical center has done a program on substance abuse in his research is the relationship of meth and violence but what people don't know about the night of the crime the and aaron mckinney behavior. in a 24 hour period that and not included in the attack on bastille he is faulted for males. on monday night the night before aaron mckinney broke into his cousin's home where he knew a friend of his was staying with whom he had previous drug dealings and he attacked him cleaving that he owed him money for drugs in my research has shown he has physically and assaulted the attack before.
once he got to the fence went russel henderson tried to stop the beating, aaron mckinney took the murder weapon covered with blood and struck russel across the face. that evening he got nine stitches and this car is still visible today. early on people were not aware first henderson never gave a complete taped confession at the time. after they left the fence area they got into a fight with two young hispanic men in the course of that aaron mckinney will adopt this a murder weapon smashing into this guy's goal if you see
photos there is a huge gash running across his head and he also got two men in the emergency room that night. how is it that aaron mckinney assaulted for people one gave man in three straight man but somehow the one was isolated as the anti-gay hate crime? in fact, a hispanic man one could say he said they were taken -- a tactic is they were hispanic pilot that the nature of meth related violence with other complicating factors. i am not excusing what aaron mckinney did but there were many things going on that night and this was the culmination of a conflicted history there between aaron mckinney and matthew shepard. some of the commentary that has come up recently said it still could be the anti-gay
hate crime because he was homophobic or homosexual it could have been but the truth is that in the court case there was not a hate crime law these guys are not convicted of a hate crime the evidence was not presented to a jury they were convicted of felony murder and related charges of kidnapping, aggravating factors. the decision that this was a hate crime was made by the media before these guys are even arraigned or before matthew was deader they were reined it was already 80 -- considered a defacto hate crime overnight eve of the force he is dead the president bill clinton made a statement that because of this we need to pass the hate crime law that was stalled in congress, the
book is not an attempt to prove it is not a hate crime obviously hatred was a factor of some of what was going on but this was a confluence not just to state of mind but he was after a shipment of drugs that night it had a street value of $12,000 he was aware of it if he had the association with the denver group. regular shipments coming in. he was at the library of our earlier from there he went to another bar the cowboy bar but then ended up at the fireside he knew exactly who
he was looking for they bought and sold drugs from each other back and forth and also did have an intimate relationship which was based in part on their drug habit but according to sources one is named in the book there is tension between them sometimes sex was a form of payment in and i quote extensively on the book to say there is no doubt that he was bisexual he enjoyed having sex with men. item of that answers the question by wanted to give some background about the overkill it does not mean it was a hate crime it was a
hate crime because a specific group of people were targeted but that is the primary motivation and what i say there are other factors that have never been looked at before. >> has the that you shepard the addition and commented on it? >> they released a statement but what i an not sure is who wrote the statement it appears the executive director of the foundation rhode it but i don't know if it is something that judy
shepard were other people were involved. but what they said is they will not respond to innuendo or unreliable sources said they would continue the work they we're doing in matthew's name. i said this in several interviews i actually admirer tremendously the work the foundation has done i interviewed jason extensively in 2004 with that piece that i produced i don't know if that statement came after reading the book or was this a statement before the release because there were no direct references to the book itself for anything that is in the book as far as the
books if i could read a short passage if you read this statement from the foundation it is no longer the truck truth. his staff had an enormous amount to give us as lessons but we miss that because of the media. news see have the icon differs from the real person but there has been such tremendous value with that
icon being created even if all you know, is that there misrepresentation of what to replace if it is important for you to know that i am glad that you do. later in the same interview when asked about the possible role of drugs and matthews killing, he replied just to say this interview was all videotaped so this is credible statement. >> methamphetamine was a very big problem in very seldom discussed in wyoming at that time. i remember thinking especially when it came out that aaron mckinney was surrounded by people that were deep in to the problem. this was perhaps the most attacked the other methamphetamine related crime that had ever happened in wyoming.
it was very clear 10 years ago to those who are watching the problem the verge it would become discouraged in middle america. it dominates life for a lot of people in our state. we have needles on the side of the road, a drug lab materials that are thrown out of the window on the interstate. i remember thinking at the time the matthew shepard case would go down forever as one of the saddest examples of gay bashing. but was also one of the saddest examples of the desperate links people on methamphetamine will go to. the last paragraph this is what i said what they may not have realized at the time is that aaron mckinney was not the only figure in this tragedy'' max surrounded by people than ever deeper into the methamphetamine problem.
the ravages to help destroy matthews' life not to mention aaron and russel in shattering the impact of the families of gulf rayburn never examined are brought to light in some cases were deliberately covered up. i ask you to consider the difference of the statement that was issued by jason d. executive director of the foundation today in the journalistic 2004. i have been accused of using and reliable sources and jason is a source for a piece of this story what i think he was not aware of at the time to the degree that matthew was involved with the meth world. >> this is off the top of my
head i grew up in north dakota so i know out there that have all law but they don't shoot and at empty farm houses because there could be and a slab it it could explode the new have a prairie fire. but when i grew up we did not have the internet or 24/7 coverage and somehow we got through. two days seems polities kids see what is out there and they feel they miss it because there is nothing to do that is true but if i had the internet as a child i would have been fined leaning towards being bored but the methamphetamine
reminds me people died from aids and it is never published what they died from even like my cousin from fargo people did not know what caused the death and they're probably a lot more deaths related to methamphetamine like people disappeared and it is a big problem. i you told usually people on mass don't buy books. [laughter] but the epidemic that is spreading through the gay community peaked and dip to but i don't know where it is right now. >> has but i am pleased
there has been a and education campaign that has gone on over the last five years that was a very strong education campaign some of those rates are down but you raise something that i just want to add it is also the economic conditions in a lot of these small towns because people realized they could may fracture matt fan could not make on the minimum-wage job if they could even get. i am a survivor of the first aids generation headachy matter of the 1970's and by the early '80s i lost dozens of friends and acquaintances
and it is something that's like a posttraumatic stress syndrome losing person after person so when i first learned about crystal meth and what it was doing, in nattily terrified me but made me upset and they agree in part of the drive to get the story when i realize people on crystal meth there are higher rates of transmission with this bill mathematics the and the general population because when you're on the drug you feel powerball which you to do anything in nothing can hurt you and people were not using protection helping to spread the virus so that made me upset another reason i thought it was important to come out also because he was hiv-positive in part of
that club and bar scene and is someone from my generation now we can live within there is treatment but back then it was a death sentence. so to see that correlation coming after the aids epidemic was almost as if i was seeing another wave of death and i remember the famous slogan for aids activist silence equals death it feels like the same thing. silence equals death. felt an obligation to speak out.
>> notice you nodding your head that i am curious of your thoughts. >> aicher you talking in that i just happened to walk into night and it is just fascinating. >> one of the things that i said earlier i am looking forward to the conversation there is some controversy i did not write it as a political book put a human point of view i have tremendous sympathy his life has affected me but even before the book was published there was a tremendous amount of highly politicized commentary that people say i am apologist for fox news and it is
ridiculous but i am happy that the lively debate is going on. as it gave me and i feel the complexities our important ned of the scheme by single minded thinking so i hope we could have more conversations and i am happy to say there has been instances on the right with a into sullivan i have great admiration for issa was fortunate he would talk to me extensively about the book on the daily be stand to another your registry in the advocate of very sympathetic piece also oasis' magazines would does not like everyone in the committee says we don't want to hear this but on the other side i mentioned some
gay writers but one from the and the american conservative was a very thoughtful piece he simply argued not politicizing but that the truce matters in this is something that concerns -- liberals and conservatives should be able to agree but i hope the conversation continues. [applause] right here in the middle of everything et. else. and joining us now is james swanson. his newest book, young adult
has been f. kenny."e have james swanson with his new book called the president was an shot with the approach of such a solution and -- thesedon assassination of jfk. you did this for young adults? >> my first one was based on the book man hunt anduldd chasing lincoln's killer.nddo first dash i will just adaptougs my adult book i will just write cut itn down but that was one o the toughest things i hadffed ever did i had a right in entirely new book.ite d it is ao different audience you ha did different rating and kids are sophisticated youlenge. cannot ride doubt -- righthe down to them you have to ment. right at their level toh preserve the core story theo drama and excitement.ry. it was tough to do withmember
lincoln and even tougher with jfk because it is ai have complex story you people don't remember him they'd go at his november 22nd so not onlyant o e that i have to tell them who a he was and what hissint kenne administration was what theellid laws meant to america so itthey is a sidebar d coffee and then telling children about the assassination because theynd of don't remember what we do. >> host: this is the young do adult titles. is your adult title? >> that comes out in bo november close to the time what of the assassination that is just like the book man hunt trying to recreate moment by moment.nkerave >> host: james swanson why should of the people withyour people coming in with books at the 50th anniversaryt t choose your buck? hey
>> guest: of lot of the books get off the point to talk about multipleha conspiracy theories that areonee contradictory or they speculate on what we don't know. realty one thing that is happening withw the 50th anniversaryo some forget about that day america loves theirurdere. president and two children. lost their father a police man was murdered and who left a widow and a white foster has been to it is not a civic exercised by one of the worst days of americanis moe history it was since thether b assassination of abraham lincoln.ac to when i tried to do that ili in hope is more interesting is taking a back to that day to make you feel what it was like to live in america is a
1963 when he was shot justy. like tin man hunt. it did not have to happenedr that way.ned hat d a 15th the news happened different ways he could have lived to nothing thate m happened was inevitable i h try to take their readers and et back even if they know the end of the story i hope theye. suspend their knowledge.day whot assaite the book for the people of the laterlive t generation today who don't remember remember anything i wante this to be there first book.this if they were alive by wanted to reflect what peoplebrg. experienced that day anda ofh hopefully this is how i is remember it. >> james swanson is eric s..